Despite indications otherwise, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) says that he is 'not mad' at Team Sky's Chris Froome and others for failing to join him in his attacks in the Vuelta a España's sixth stage.
The Spaniard, racing his last race, began firing on the final Puerto del Garbí climb on Thursday's stage and destroyed the favourites group with race leader Froome.
"I was not mad at Froome, I just analysed the race situation and noticed that he didn't put any effort to take time on any of the other riders behind," Contador explained.
"If there had been more collaboration, I am sure we could have made bigger differences, but of course everybody defines his own race goals and has his own race tactics. And the important thing here is that it has been a beautiful stage and that there are still a lot if those ahead of us."
Contador lost time in the opening stages, sits 3-10 minutes back, and must attack if he is to have a chance at winning a fourth Vuelta a España title before he retires.
However, the final climb on stage six left 36.4 kilometres of descending roads and flats to cover to Sagunt.
"I wanted to do the climbs in a high pace because I knew some of the rivals would have to pay for that," Contador explained.
"I believe Chris, Chaves, a whole bunch of guys are really strong. I am at a big distance so I will try to take the opportunity to aim for a stage victory and for the GC.
"To be honest, I thought there would be more of a fight. Some teams were really in the advantage – they had two or three team-mates – to take some time on some other riders. And yeah, maybe later on in the race they won't have that opportunity any more and might regret that they didn't take it now."
On stage five and again on stage six, 34-year-old Contador appeared to be back to his usual 'El Pistolero' self, out of the saddle and trying at every opportunity he saw.
"He knew the climb very well because he has a house here in Valencia, as well," sports director Steven De Jongh said. "He felt good and thought that maybe he could surprise other guys.
"It was also good to see him on a good level again after the other day. Yesterday it was also promising and today showed that it was not a one-off. Let's hope now that things go his way."
Contador split the group and of the favourites, only Froome remained. Slowly, however, the others like Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) in second overall and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) in fifth rejoined.
"I think he was upset about the lack of collaboration but it's going to be a hard race and the way he's climbing now he should just stay calm. After a week, things will look different in the GC," De Jongh added.
"It is not up to Froome to ride but maybe guys like Esteban Chaves could pull. But OK, they all have their own interests. It's going to be a long Vuelta and we can take time later."
Over two weeks remain in the Vuelta a España, including eight more summit finishes. On stage seven, the riders will cover a medium mountain stage inland from Valencia to Cuenca.
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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